Uncertainty around whether students will receive the results of their Leaving Cert exams later than usual this year has been criticised as "most unsatisfactory" by the Central Applications Office (CAO).
Exam results are traditionally issued in mid-August followed by offers of places in college courses several days later. However, authorities recently told higher education representatives that there are logistical challenges in finalising a date for issuing this year’s results, in part because of the need to hold a second sitting of the Leaving Cert exams due to Covid-19.
The CAO, which processes applications for third-level courses, has raised concerns over the knock-on effects of any delay in a letter to Minister for Education Norma Foley.
In a May 16th letter, Prof Pól Ó Dochartaigh, chair of the CAO, said it appeared "no provision has been made to ensure LC candidates may progress in a timely fashion with their careers in higher or further education or in other fields".
Prof Ó Dochartaigh said “it is now the middle of May and no announcement has yet been made regarding the date which LC results will be made available to candidates, the CAO and higher education institutions”.
The uncertainty over the timelines for students and the higher education sector was “most unsatisfactory” he told the Minister.
The Leaving Cert is due to begin on June 8th and finish on June 28th, with a second sitting taking place shortly afterwards to facilitate students who missed exams due to contracting Covid-19, another serious medical condition or who had a close family bereavement.
While the numbers who will need to sit the deferred examinations is unknown at present, there are concerns it may lead to delays in releasing results.
‘Significant preparatory work’
Prof Ó Dochartaigh said he recognised the State Examinations Commission (SEC) faced a “major operation” to process the two sets of exams, but added the CAO and colleges also had significant preparatory work to do.
“The lack of clarity is inhibiting proper planning of the admissions process,” he told the Minister.
He called for the exam results to be available “as close to the traditional date as possible” and for the date to be clarified “as a matter of urgency”.
In separate correspondence on Monday, the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), which represents Technological Universities and Institutes of Technology, also expressed concerns over the “lack of certainty” around the results.
The THEA wrote to Ms Foley stating any delay in issuing students with results would create difficulties for the third-level sector. “Delayed results imply delayed entry into higher education and the necessity to run dual timetables for returning and new entry students,” the letter said.
Any delay would also impact students’ efforts to find housing near colleges, the it was said in the correspondence. “We ask that a decision is forthcoming so that the planning process for all concerned, intending students and academic institutions, can commence without delay,” the representative group wrote.
A spokesman for the department said authorities needed “sufficient time” after the second sitting of the exams to carry out a “range of checks and quality assurance procedures”.
Department and SEC officials had met with representatives from the third-level education sector to lay out the changes in the process this year.
“The SEC will continue to work with these stakeholders and other education stakeholders to provide further updates regarding the date for the 2022 Leaving Certificate results,” the spokesman said.